One of Hollywood's best kept secrets is how and where the Indiana Jones movie series got its start and more fascinating, how it got the name. But, with invitation in hand, the Stranger Than Truth team flew out to California to meet someone who was there every step of the way.
"It began when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas both got lucky as hell about the same time with their movies, Close Encounters: Of the Third Kind and, of course, Star Wars.
Both were smashing successes and both found themselves often on the same stage accepting awards. And so it was from this juncture, they decided to collaborate on a common cause.
In late 1978, after meeting for dinner, they knew they had to get an idea about what they were going to do together. Problem was, they didn't have much common ground. However, through the restaurant's window, they saw a K-Mart store across the street and decided to go have a look at the book section to see if anything jumped out at them.
Well, it did.
On the shelf was a reduced-price paperback titled, 'Riders in the Lost Park', with the central character being an aging hippie named, Missouri Smith. From there, it all seemed to fall into place.
Our guide, Jean E. Eden, who was Spielberg's then secretary-away-from-home, goes on and relates it like this,
"Steven and George were really excited. The story (in the book) was of an old hippie-type who had just found a job with the Santa Barbara Health Department as a septic tank inspector. On one occasion, he lowers himself into one of these things and with a flashlight, discovers a long tunnel that leads to a chamber underneath Mission Park."
Jean goes on to detail how Missouri (pronounced Mizzur-ah, in the story) finds a treasure trove of early missionary-type artifacts. The problem was that some were too big to be removed via the small, smelly tunnel so, they would have to be excavated from above - in the park itself - and from there, the adventure begins.
"The stuff the character finds in the book's story was an easy flip into the Ark of the Covenant... and an old, historic park along the coast of California was quickly converted to a lost city in Egypt." she said with a smile.
"It was really Lucas that prodded Steve into dressing this into a tale worthy of the big screen."
Of course, the whole background behind the Indiana Jones series had to be kept hush-hush because there was concern that Santa Barbara and/or the author of the book the idea came from, might want a piece of the action.
And finally, in the story 'Riders in the Lost Park', old Missouri Smith takes a few tokes while crawling through that cesspoolish tunnel but Lucas and Spielberg had to dance around that by making sure Harrison Ford's character definitely enjoyed a bottle over a hookah.
As it stands right now, there may never be another addition to the series. Ford recently took a part in Sly Stallone's 'Expendables 3' and seemed to enjoy it quite a lot.
Ms. Eden closed by saying this on that subject, "Harrison never really got a chance to be expendable. I think he's never going to go back to being just a plain, old-fashioned good guy again!"